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Book Collecting, UFC, Salvador Dali, Cocaine, Weed, and Ecstasy, Etc

Spoiler! The highlight of my Las Vegas trip was an hour in a bookstore.

But first:

A couple of weeks ago I was in Las Vegas, walking out of my first UFC live event (as a spectator, not a fighter, of course).  As we shuffled along, shoulder to shoulder, a voice started yapping, behind me and to the left.

“There’s no way that round was scored right!  There’s no f-in…” etc.  “I just lost thousands of dollars!  I just want to do so much cocaine!  I want to fight someone!”

Okay, now keep in mind that this is being bellowed almost in my ear.  I turned to see who this aggrieved person was.  It was some chubby kid with a big mole and a grey sweatsuit, maddened with rage.  After listening to him for the next two minutes I felt like I regressed to a third grade reading level.  I hope he found his cocaine and calmed down.  

En route to our hotel an hour later, we walked by a 7-11.  A small man with a twitchy woman in tow walked up and said, “Hey man, I got cocaine, weed, and ecstasy.”  And he said it in the deepest voice, like Darth Vader deep.  I started laughing, it was just so brazen.  And it’s not like it was in an alley, it was just out in the open in front of a place where people were buying Big Gulps.

This is why Bauman Rare Books was such an oasis in the midst of all the stupid.  My friend and I, another book nerd, had a great time wandering the casinos and watching the fights, but we each heaved a big sigh of relief when we saw a book store in the middle of The Palazzo.

And what a book store!  Documents signed by Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, 80k price tags, lots of pages behind glass, etc.  People would walk in and their voices would instantly hush.

The owner showed us a Dali-Illustrated and -signed version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that just about stopped my heart, those unbound pages were so beautiful.


Then, a couple of days ago I went to a book collecting salon at Weller Book Works, here in Salt Lake. After and before a wonderful talk by Catherine Weller, I just stumbled around the rare book room with my mouth open, looking at the books signed by Joyce, Faulkner, and so on.  And talking with other people doing the same thing. It was a blast.  A blast, I tell you. The perfect Friday night.

Then started reading A Gentle Madness  again.  And it sort of made me wish I was an eccentric book collector with a fortune to burn.  Alas.

I have lots of books, and even a few signed ones (I have a signed Sandra Cisneros book that says, in Spanish ‘My handsome white boy, now and forever, I only write for you’).”  But nothing rare, and I don’t know if I’d ever be able to shell out much money for rarities, even if I had the money.

How about you?  Any serious collectors here?  Serious or not, what are your prized literary possessions?



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  • Heather February 25, 2013, 11:58 am

    D’oh! Sounds like one helluva party, and the ONLY reason ANYONE should go to Vegas! So did that kid ever GET the cocaine he was yammering about, or did he miss the twitchy couple via the 7-11? Thanks for the brain-nudge about Gentle Madness. THAT is some awesome stuff! 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne February 25, 2013, 12:15 pm

      If you like A Gentle Madness, you’ll like all of Basbanes’ books, I decree it.

  • spencer February 25, 2013, 12:25 pm

    I have my dad’s old copy of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.” It means a lot to me because it meant a lot to him.

    I have old used books from college literature classes I couldn’t stand to sell back at the end of the semester, even though I was broke.

    I have brand new books that I am so excited about I can’t bring myself to actually read them.

    But my very most cherished books are those from old friends with inscriptions written in the covers, sitting on shelves as constant (if quiet) reminders of the happiest times of my life.

    As for collecting, if I suddenly came into oodles and oodles of cash, I would consider it. It makes as much since as other rare weird things that people invest in. And every page of that Dali book should be on glass-cased display somewhere. I would love to be a facilitator in bringing art and beauty to light.

  • spencer February 25, 2013, 12:29 pm

    P.S. I’ve got thousands of dollars that say that kid in the grey sweatsuit (a) didn’t have thousands to lose on that fight, and (b) wouldn’t have lasted thirty seconds in any fight he had the misfortune of getting involved in that night.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 25, 2013, 12:42 pm

      Perhaps he did lose the money and some savage bookies are now menacing him.

      • spencer February 25, 2013, 1:08 pm

        Savage bookies would make short work of that dude.

  • Frank Roberts February 25, 2013, 12:33 pm

    Josh – We had an exhibit from the Remnant Trust (http://theremnanttrust.com/wp/) in my library several years ago. We had about 40 items – from a 14th century copy (not a 13th century original) of the Magna Carta (still an illuminated manuscript on vellum) to an original, signed broadside of the Emancipation Proclamation (Lincoln of course being the signatory). The amazing thing about the Remnant Trust collection is that they feel these books belong to the people, not just collectors, and their main requirement for displaying parts of their collection is that you put the volumes IN PEOPLE’S HANDS! So, I had high school students flipping through the pages of the Magna Carta copy, valued at $500,000! (We did make them wash the Cheetos from their hands). That semester, I got to put these items in the hands of over 4,000 people. An incredible experience. I fully understand your awe. (No cocaine was consumed in the production of this message).

    • Josh Hanagarne February 25, 2013, 12:43 pm

      That’s wonderful. I was actually too nervous to touch the Alice book because of my tics, but the owner was more than happy to flip through the pages for me.

  • Oscar Gonzalez February 25, 2013, 1:35 pm

    I have a copy of The Game signed by Neil Strauss.

  • Magdalen Rose February 25, 2013, 8:32 pm

    My signed copy of “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish” is definitely a keeper. Every time I read “Don’t Panic!” in Douglas Adams’ handwriting it makes me smile.

  • Rene Vallieres February 26, 2013, 10:44 am

    Nothing signed but a few first editions, first printings:
    “Solar Lottery” by Philip K Dick (ACE D-103). His first published novel (1955).
    “The Violent Bear It Away” by Flannery O’Connor with a very good condition dust jacket.
    “Tree of Smoke” by Denis Johnson in like new condition.
    “Franny and Zooey” by J.D. Salinger in good dust jacket but second printing (first edition). And a few others.

    • Josh Hanagarne February 26, 2013, 11:00 am

      I’d love to see that Solar Lottery. Rene, you should come with me to the Weller thing again next month.

      • Rene Vallieres February 26, 2013, 11:02 am

        I’ll bring it in.

  • Ara Bedrossian February 26, 2013, 12:15 pm

    I like my books..but I’m selling them all off as I prepare to move. Part of my simplifying everything into one car, which makes me feel good, but…I’ll miss them. I think I’m keeping Memoir from an Antproof Case, though.

    When I go into a book store, I feel like I’ve filtered out many who I wouldn’t enjoy being with quite as much as those who are left in that bookstore, but whoever it is, I need good communicators. I think we all do, really.

  • jessew March 11, 2013, 4:11 am

    Just finished reading your book(yes I stayed up all night) (thanks for the book librarything) and I’ll be adding your book to the keep forever and hoard like gold pile. Sometimes a parent forgets what it is like to be a child and have unknown and seemingly uncontrollable urges, as a parent of a mildly Autistic kid I needed the reminder. Thanks!

    P.S. If you ever find yourself East Coastish let me know. I’ll be happy to attend any signing or event!

    • Josh Hanagarne March 11, 2013, 9:41 am

      Thanks Jesse! I’ll let you know, absolutely.

  • jessew March 12, 2013, 1:42 am

    Ohh and a favorite book (besides your own) would be Graham Greene’s “Monsignor Quixote”. Since you like Don Quixote you might want to check it out Josh. Also since I’m giving recommendations have you ever read of the Great Belzoni(archaeologist and strongman)? It doesn’t give any training tips but you still might like him.